Canadian and Australian Leaders Slam Obama on Climate Change
Since the science is mostly settled on what has happened to the planet as a result of climate change, scientists know that if humanity keeps growing in population and energy consumption the problems will only get worse. It makes sense, from a “keep Earth livable” point-of-view to prepare for the more dire predictions so we can be pleasantly surprised if our planet again surprises us, this time cleaning up a mess we made.
However, as any climate debate on cable news will tell you, “business” is most threatened by calls to reduce carbon emissions. It’s not just an American problem either (although climate change denial seems to be). Right-wing Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is visiting North America this week and he has long been critical of climate change, taking a direct shot at President Obama by saying climate change is not the world’s “most important” problem.
Abbott and right-wing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both “took a hard line” on climate change in a joint press appearance on Monday, according to CBC. “It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change,” he said, but thinks it should be done in a way that doesn’t “clobber the economy.”
What Abbott, Harper, and every other climate change critic is worried about represents the short-term thinking of modern business. While there are some pretty far-out ideas for dealing with global warming in the science community, the most widespread and immediate steps taken are going to be economic ones.
Essentially, governments seek to provide companies with a financial incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. The two most popular options for doing this are “cap and trade” and the “carbon tax.” Neither option is very popular with the pro-greed pro-business crowd.
The former option essentially creates a “carbon market” by capping the emissions of companies in America, but allowing companies who don’t reach the cap to sell their carbon credit to a polluter. The thinking is that since companies who reduce emissions will be able to profit from selling their credits, they will reduce emissions. However, it also presupposes that there will be a market for those credits, which means that many heavy polluters will still dump greenhouse gases into the air.
The carbon tax is simply that, a tax on the amount of carbon a company uses in a given year. While this is by no means certain, the revenue created from these carbon taxes would go towards funding research into alternative energy or subsidizing companies developing new non-combustion technologies.
What’s interesting about this is that the criticism against these measures – levied from the likes of Rush Limbaugh to respected economists – is that these systems are both ripe for abuse and may only affect the economic climate. The success of either program would depend solely on the willingness of the companies involved to actually play by the rules.
In the next post, we will look at some of the ways innovators are hoping to address the problem of climate change by actively changing it back using science.
Photo via screengrab